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Desert city of the future July 15, 2010

Posted by Jenny in art.
Tags: , , ,

"Chosen Site" by Paul Klee (1927)

Desert city—that’s what I see in this painting.  I have no idea if that’s what Paul Klee had in mind, and that seems just fine. Like all of his paintings, “Chosen Site” invites me to invent a personal interpretation. Klee was representational and he was abstract, he used pictorial images and he used notational symbols, he used a lot of color and he used hardly any color. He was whimsical and he was deadly serious. He was expressionist, pointillist, symbolist, dadaist, cubist, but most of all he was his own man and he painted things however the hell he felt like it.

I love this painting. It gives me all kinds of thoughts that rumble around in my brain without adding up to any single clear message. Here are some things that it suggests to me: dusk in the desert, hot temperatures, a futuristic fantasy of a megalopolis, travel to the moon, the future as it was imagined in the 1920s and not as it is imagined now, giant power plants with chimneys and stacks, north African streets of small, crowded, complicated buildings.

It gives me not just ideas but an indescribable mood that has to do with a warm comfortable dusk and a confident hope for the future, an expanding sense of possibility, a feeling of happiness.

Paul Klee


1. Thomas Stazyk - July 15, 2010

Thanks! It’s a great painting and you’ve made me look at it in different ways. I was wondering if it could be the first city on the moon with the earth in the background?

Jenny - July 15, 2010

You know, that interpretation makes an awful lot of sense! I think the reason I see the painting as “earth-based” rather than “moon-based” is simply that I like thinking about such a landscape (the one in the foreground) being on earth. There is also the question whether someone in 1927 would have been thinking about colonization of the moon (worth some research, I think). Your way of seeing it has a lot going for it.

2. Roon Lewald - July 19, 2010

If doodling is a way of working out semi- or unconscious thinking/awareness/experience/observation, Klee was a master of the art. Since he himself couldn’t or wouldn’t reveal exactly what associations moved him, he gives us free rein to formulate our own subjective responses to his work. What emerges is a Rohrschach test of the commentator’s personality, imagination and awareness. By that token, your comments look pretty good to me, Jenny!

Jenny - July 20, 2010

Thanks for that idea—I think that art such as Klee’s that is neither entirely abstract nor entirely representational lends itself especially well to that sort of projection.

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